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Last line of defence

“By doing this work pro bono, lawyers stop executions going ahead.” – Tansy Brosnahan

Tansy Brosnahan was a young lawyer helping death row inmates in the Caribbean when she saw just how precarious access to legal representation can be.


Today Tansy is a senior lawyer tackling Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues within ANZ’s Legal & Corporate Governance team. She also chairs ANZ's Legal Pro-Bono Network.


The program started in 2016 and is focussed on providing dedicated legal assistance to benefit the community.


Partnering with external law firms, ANZ lawyers help with specific programs including working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and offering free legal advice to people under the age of 25.


Working in London


While lawyers have long committed to pro-bono work – volunteering their legal services for the public good – Tansy says first person experience of it changed her life and strengthened her resolve.


During her time in London working for Clifford Chance she first became involved in pro-bono work, particularly aiding prisoners on death row with their appeals.


This early exposure left a profound impact on her, shaping her commitment to pro-bono endeavours.


As the United Kingdom’s Privy Council was the final court of appeal for the Caribbean in certain circumstances, the prisoners needed lawyers admitted to practice in England and Wales who were willing to take the case for no fee.


The goal was to obtain a pardon or commutation of a sentence or stay of execution. 


“As a young lawyer I approached this work with some trepidation,” she says.


“The types of offences that have the death penalty in the Caribbean are treason, some military offences and terrorism, but mostly the death penalty is imposed for murder.”


“So in signing on for this work I knew that I was almost certain to be representing a convicted murderer.”


But Tansy’s convictions held firm. And she saw how a well-established pro-bono program - well managed and supervised – could help.


“I didn’t have any moral dilemmas. The death penalty is too irreversible to be inflicted by one human being on another. So in my view the death row prisoners needed representation, regardless of what they had been convicted of.”


She never met any of her clients and could only communicate with them by writing letters.


“The length of time this took was generally not a concern to the prisoner, given they couldn’t be executed until the appeal process was concluded.” 


She focused on obtaining documents and putting together representations, looking at whether the conviction was valid.


Many questions had to be asked - was the criminal investigation poor quality due to delays? Were there problems with forensic evidence? Were there extorted confessions? And was there a lack of mental health assessments on prisoners?


“By doing this work pro bono, lawyers stop executions going ahead,” Tansy says. “To me it seemed too random, the protection of such fundamental rights are left to lawyers working pro bono.”


“It left me with a real sense of the vital role for pro bono lawyers and the obligation on lawyers to help those who cannot afford legal representation.”


Global Financial Crisis


Tansy’s passion for using the law to create a social impact – be it through pro-bono work or on important issues such as ESG – was sharpened when she saw the impact of the global financial crisis in London.


Witnessing the upheaval caused by the crisis ignited her interest in stakeholder views and corporate responsibility. She emphasises the importance of corporations contributing positively to society. It also taught her the benefit of a range of experiences.


Tansy’s background, which includes stints in non-legal roles like agriculture and undertaking a Masters of Social Impact, illustrates how innovation can occur at the intersection of different experiences.


Her contributions haven't gone unnoticed. She was recognised in the 2023 Legal 500 GC Power List for her outstanding work. 

Volunteering at ANZ


ANZ encourages all our people to take an active role in giving back to their community.


Since the program began in 2001, ANZ has contributed more than 1 million volunteering hours, supporting many local communities across markets.


Our Volunteer Leave Policy applies to permanent, regular and fixed-term employees, providing at least one day of paid volunteer leave each year.


In 2023, our people volunteered 75,812.5 hours to community organisations. This represents more than 9,477 working days and $3,048,733 in value to the community.


Read more about our volunteering programs in our ESG report: https://www.anz.com.au/content/dam/anzcomau/about-us/anz-2023-esg-supplement.pdf

Helping while at ANZ


On joining ANZ in 2021, Tansy marked a pivotal moment in her career, with the pro-bono committee offering her a platform to align her professional expertise with her personal values.


As chair of the six-person committee, Tansy’s involvement primarily revolves around coordination, fostering relationships with law firms and setting up programs aimed at making a tangible difference in communities.


“The working group are wonderfully dedicated and see the huge benefits the program offers, both to ANZ and to the community.”


Current key partnerships include working with the Youthlaw organisation to help provide free, confidential legal advice and information to young Australians under 25.


The committee also works with TalkLaw, a program working with high school students from disadvantaged areas and also KWM School of Opportunity in conjunction with The Smith Family.


“With KWM we help with mentoring and providing training to a select cohort of tertiary students. The program is aimed at social diversity and helping those from underprivileged backgrounds see themselves working in a corporate environment.”


Tansy has also worked with ANZ’s Social Impact team to align the pro-bono program offered to ANZ's lawyers with the bank's strategic social impact pillars.


This initiative significantly improved how the legal team can directly impact ANZ’s purpose of helping people and communities thrive.


“We are always looking for volunteers – please get in touch. You do need a law degree, except for the KWM School of Opportunity.”


Advice for the journey


Reflecting on her journey, Tansy offers a key piece of advice to aspiring professionals: follow your interests passionately.


Pursue what truly captivates you, rather than conforming to perceived career norms. Her own trajectory shows how fulfillment comes from aligning your career with your personal passions and values.


Tansy stepped away from the law for some time and she is grateful to ANZ for employing her after a long career break.


“ANZ understands the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce and the potential for increased innovation that employees from different backgrounds bring,” Tansy says.


Jeff Whalley is a journalist with bluenotes

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